Puno: ABS-CBN still can’t operate even with provisional authority sans franchise

Former chief justice Reynato Puno on Tuesday said that even with provisional authority, television giant ABS-CBN still cannot operate when its franchise expires this May in the absence of a congressional franchise.

Puno effectively refuted the call of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who asked Congress Monday to allow the National Telecommunications Commission to issue a provisional authority to operate to the troubled network.

He invoked as his legal basis the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision, which incidentally he penned, in Associated Communications & Wireless Services vs. NTC), that undercored the need for a franchise before a company can operate under a provisional authority.

“We were unanimous in holding that there is need for a franchise before the NTC can grant a provisional permit. Without a franchise, the television station concerned has to cease operations,” Puno said.

Also, Puno cited the provisions of Republic Act No. 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines.

“They (ABS-CBN) cannot (operate) because of that decision by the Supreme Court and the laws we have, particularly R.A. 7925,” Puno added.

Section 16 of the R.A. 7925 stated that “no person shall commence or conduct the business of being a public telecommunications entity without first obtaining a franchise.”

Guevarra on Monday said that Congress should authorize the NTC to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN.

He made the statement during the Senate public services committee’s hearing on the ABS-CBN network’s franchise.

“Considerations of equity have apparently been applied in previous similar situations presented earlier, namely, among others, PT&T, Smart Communications Inc., CBCP Inc., all of whom were allowed to operate despite expired franchises as long as application for the renewal of their franchises were lodged with the Congress before the lapse of their term. ”

“The grant of a franchise is an exercise of sovereign power and under our Constitution, that power is vested in the Congress. By necessary implication, such power of Congress also includes the power to prescribe the rights of a franchisee applicant pending final determination of the renewal of its franchise by the Congress. ”

“It is, therefore, respectfully submitted that the Congress, by a concurrent resolution, may authorize the NTC to issue a provisional authority subject to such terms and conditions as the NTC may deem fit to ABS-CBN and other entities similarly situated, authorizing them to continue operating subject to Congress’ eventual disposition of their renewal of the application,” Guevarra said.

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